Magna approved to sell horse tracks

WILMINGTON, Del. — A Delaware bankruptcy judge has granted Magna Entertainment Corp.'s request for approval of its plan to sell several horse tracks and other assets.

The plan approved Monday by Judge Mary Walrath includes Santa Anita Park in California, Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Thistledown in Ohio and Portland Meadows in Oregon, as well as Magna's interest in Lone Star Park in Texas.

Ontario-based Magna, the largest horse track owner in the United States, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, saying it was unable to obtain new financing while supporting its existing debt.

The sale plan calls for expressions of interest in any of the racetracks to be submitted by May 27, with definitive bids due by July 31. An auction will be held in New York City on Sept. 8, followed by a court hearing in Delaware three days later.

Magna attorney Brian Rosen said the company might seek approval later to sell other assets currently not in the mix, including Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, home of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Last week, Magna pulled Pimlico and its other Maryland assets, Laurel Park and a training center in Bowie, from the list of assets to be sold.

Officials with the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore are fighting to keep Pimlico and the Preakness in Baltimore. Attorneys for the state and city said Monday that they reserve the right to object should Magna decide to put Pimlico up for sale.

Rosen said opposition from Maryland, which he described as "peripheral noise," did not play a role in the decision to withdraw Pimlico from the sale process, and that Magna simply wanted to move forward with selling more valuable assets.

Rosen reiterated that MI Developments Inc., a property-management company that is Magna's controlling shareholder as well as its largest secured creditor, will not participate in the bidding except to prevent the "fire sale" of any asset subject to a low-ball bid.

MI's withdrawal from the process was part of an effort to address complaints about potential conflicts involving insiders, particularly Frank Stronach, who is chairman of both Magna and MI.